Trip Start Jun 10, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Italy  , Sicily,
Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Siracusa is without question one of the most historically important places on the planet. As mentioned in our previous entry, countless military forces have invaded Sicily over time. Siracusa has often been the first port of call for the invading armies. Most of the action took place on the island of Ortygia just detached from mainland Siracusa. This is where we were lucky enough to stay. After weaving through the narrow labyrinths that make up the islands streets for some time we stumbled across our lovely B&B. Not only is it right in the heart of Ortygia, but it is also, air-conditioned, has a lovely roof top terrace, brings breakfast to your room in the morning, and we even got to watch a little BBC news in English on our LCD TV! If it weren't for all the sights in Siracusa, we probably would have enjoyed our room for two days!
We dropped off our gear and headed out to explore the streets of Ortygia. The island is just packed with old buildings, churches, and even a few palaces. What seemed surprising was that the streets seemed empty all day. Very few locals and only a handful of tourists could be seen. Maybe it was because of the sweltering heat (again about 36-degrees). We came across the Cathedral on the island that was built in the 7th century on top of the Temple of Athena. They incorporated most of the original columns from the Temple in its structure and it makes for a very unique look and feel. It wasn't until we ventured out for dinner that we saw the explosion of both locals and tourists. Every terrace and patio was buzzing with diners. The ambiance of cute outdoor patios nestled under palm trees in millennia old piazzas surrounded by gorgeous churches was enough to appease anyone. Finding Megan her spaghetti with meat sauce was just the icing on the cake. With full bellies we waddled back to our room to rest up for our next day of sightseeing in the heat.
After our lovely breakfast in bed, we headed to the Neapolis-Parco Archeologico. The park holds an astonishing amount of historical sights to visit. The big-ticket item is the Teatro Greco. A massive 5th century BC Greek theatre that was carved entirely out of the stone in the ground on site. Only a few metres from that is an ear-shaped cave or grotto that Dionysius used to eavesdrop on his prisoners that he held there. Even the faintest noises are amplified to the outside. There is also a massive Roman Amphitheatre that is only rivaled by the Coliseums in Rome and Verona. Additionally there are countless grottos, a Roman pool, and a 2500-year-old altar built by the tyrant Heiron II. The altar is the largest in the world at 23 metres wide by 198 metres long. During the Feast of Elautheria, 450 bulls were killed, roasted and eaten by the participants on this altar. Siracusa has certainly seen its share of influence. What was most interesting was the fact that only the foundations of the Roman amphitheatre and the altar remain. This is because during the time of Spanish control (16th century) they took all of the stones that made up these structures to fortify the island of Ortygia. It is fascinating to see all of these buildings and structures that are made from, with, or on top of older monuments from the past. And it all happened in a city smaller than Guelph. Wow.
Off to the resort town of Taormina...
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